Friday, February 10, 2012

What Happens On Twitter, Doesn’t Stay On Twitter

What happens on Twitter, doesn't stay on Twitter...or on any other social media outlet, for that matter.

It’s not Vegas, and you can be sure of it. Less people get fired for their Vegas peccadilloes then do people that vacation daily on social media networks.

Lately we’ve been noticing an uptick in Tweets that make using a fake name/identity, or a fake .avi, on social media networks seem like a negative. We figure those tweets, like many, are formed out of ignorance about the online world, and probably the world in general, so we’ve decided to come out in defense of people whose face isn’t in their .avi, and whose name isn’t all over, or part of, their @.

We are in defending the regular people who use social media as an escape for their offline life, those who use it as a social outlet, an extension of their life; that use it much like going to a bar, or hanging out with friends. Not those feeding their own ego anonymously by forming wild, outrageous and/or creative tweets/status updates, just for the sake of creating them. There is a fine line between the two, but there is a difference. While there is nothing wrong with "entertainment" social media accounts, they too, like everyone else, should be careful.

We want to note right off that we are not defending parody accounts, people who use a fake .avi, a fake name, and a fake life; nor are we defending accounts set up to harass and bully people behind the mask of anonymity, those people are just sad.  

There are reasons why people should be as anonymous as possible with their name, location, and face, on social media.

Nobody Can Find Me!

First, even if you use an alias online, people can still find you. The online world is not anonymous as you think it is. An IP address (computer address) can trace right down to an approximate physical location of the person, like Ames, Iowa, for example. An IP can be pinged by anybody through e-mail, chat forums, websites and social media.  It can be, and has been, used in cases against cyber-bullying. It can be, and has been, used by local, state and government organizations for purposes of apprehending criminals.

Even being anonymous, but using social media from work, can be dangerous. Many companies who have an Internet network in the workplace use a firewall (a network protection device), which means e-mail, instant messaging and social media may be monitored by staff, or IT personnel at any time. Obviously that can potentially be a breach of privacy unless you work for an organization dealing with highly classified information, but you are on their time.

Even if you use easily identifiable identification online, say your real name, but use a program to release carefully timed Tweets/statuses during the day using a program; yes, people use applications like that; many employers do not understand how that works, even though it is easily detectable in the details section of each Tweet, for example; and it can appear as if you are on a social media site when you are not, when you are supposed to be working.

Being Me Online, What’s The Worst That Can Happen

This past couple of months we have heard, directly from the Tweeters, the following instances which caused them to "go underground" or lock their accounts. (by the way, some people lock their accounts for just these privacy reasons, how about easing up on making them feel bad, they're just doing Twitter differently.
  • One person had their employer find their account and confronted them, they are now in recreation of a new account.
  • One person who works freelance had a client bring in a printed copy of a Tweet, and they subsequently lost a client because of it.
  • One person had students of their spouse requesting to follow their Twitter account. It made them uncomfortable.
  • One person had students who found their account, forcing them to use an alias and an .avi.
...and need we remind you we got fired in July 2011, out of the blue, and during the “exit interview” they commented that they had found our Twitter account, citing a tweet from the week before. While we did prepare a document to be submitted to The Human Rights board detailing our entire employment with the organization, we decided in the end not submit it because we had to eventually leave the country because of a work permit issue. (Read our Human Rights document)

Not enough examples? 
It's not only famous people who bare the brunt of expressing their humor, opinions and sharing their life, sometimes people get penalized for "over sharing" their life.
For every one of these stories there are countless more like them.

Businesses also search social media and the Internet to find out about potential employees: Social Media Platforms and Your Next Hire, they may not be as impressed with your Tweets or status updates as your social media chums.  

Bottom line, if your company or organization is overly sensitive to it's image and public perception; if you are slacking off at work, and they need a reason to fire you; if you're looking for a new job; 
you may be one questionable written sentence away from being fired, you may be passed over for that dick Tweet or dropping too many "F-Bombs"…you could be hammering the nails in your coffin. 

Your employer should have no right to fire you for expressing your feelings and opinions off of the company clock, on your personal social media accounts, but if you get canned for it we suggest you contact The National Labor Relation Board, as did five employees of a Buffalo, NY who got fired from a nonprofit organization for a Facebook conversation. Of the complaints for wrongful termination due to social media usage filed with the NLRB in 2011, 51% were deemed legitimate enough to bring before a judge(1).

Organizations shouldn't forget the fact that they employee real people, and real people have thoughts and feelings, and a desire for expression as a means of release, and just because they have a job doesn't mean they love the job all the time. The world shouldn't be made of Stepford citizens, and neither should workplaces.

So…you’re thinking, big deal, some of them might have deserved to be fired, or get in trouble, nothing will happen to average people who just wants to Tweet funny stuff from personal non-anonymous accounts.

Nothing should make private accounts more appealing than the FBI's monitoring of it, and it's ability to jump to conclusions. Take the early-20's British couple who recently got detained and denied entry when trying to come to the United States for vacation, all because of a Tweet gone wrong, as we mentioned in a post earlier this week, American The Anxious, America The Paranoid

You could be arrested under the Terrorist Act, as did Paul Chambers in 2010, who tried to explain to police what Twitter actually was during an interrogation about a terrible Tweet gone TERRIBLY wrong, because they were not familiar with the online social media website. T
o this day we still have to explain what Twitter is to people, just yesterday at the place where our boyfriend works an employee was trying to explain Twitter to the CEO of the company, and why it’s might be important to their business. He didn't "get it". Just because a lot of people in the world (millions) use it, doesn't mean everyone understand what it is…some of the people who use it don’t even understand it.

Tessa Mayes, a civil libertarian who specializes in privacy law and free speech issues says that "[These days] making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm.”(3) 

Remember the 2002 film Minority Report? Familiar with George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four? Who says science fiction doesn’t come full circle to reality.

And the government is planning to increase their monitoring of social media as indicated by a recent job posting earlier this year by the FBI seeking a developer to build them a data-mining application (2). While an anonymous account won't help you against the government, it does make it more appealing, no?  

None of this is meant to scare you, it is meant to keep you mindful both of your own Internet identity, and the means that drive others to use a fake handle, and an .avi of a cartoon character. Don't make people who who stand behind an obscure name and a fake .avi to protect their identity feel bad, when the real people who should be made to feel bad are the ones who use social networking to mindlessly hurt and bully others and in so destroy honest and fun freedom of expression.
“The good thing about anonymity over the Internet is that you can tell people what you’re thinking without any reservation. The bad thing is, people are overusing it to the point where it is no longer welcomed by the society.” Social Media Misuse That Could Cost You Big Time John Uehara, 2011 
Maybe it's not "just" social media, maybe what happens there means a lot more.



  1. Ms. Frank ~ Would you mind if I copy/pasted parts of this date's blog entry and added it to my blog? @barby1015

  2. I’ll have to re-read later when have time. Think you realize by now that I can’t make up my mind and basically wouldn’t mind. I think people are afraid of me anyway. : )